On October 27th, 2017, I raced home from school and hurriedly opened my laptop. My fingers frantically typed the word ‘Netflix’, as my wide eyes stared expectantly at the loading screen. As soon as ‘NEW: Stranger Things Season 2’ popped up, I immediately clicked on it and began binge watching the newest season of my favorite show.
Stranger Things was first released in July 2016, and it captivated the world with its interesting combination of nostalgic-thriller-mystery. It’s based in the 1980s in Hawkins, Indiana, where a group of 8th graders get involved in a terrifying situation when one of their friends goes missing. The show follows a whirlwind of events, and involves the discovery of concealed government experiments, a telekinetic girl, and underworld dimensions. It has the perfect mix of humor, terror, and an old school feel, that all blends together brilliantly. Needless to say, Stranger Things Season 1 was incredible.
Season 2 has been very long awaited, and lovers of the show eagerly counted down the days until the familiar characters fill our laptop screens. The second season of the Netflix original was released at the end of October in its entirety, from the first episode to the finale. Instead of episodes coming out weekly, Stranger Things comes out as a whole season, which is both incredible and dangerous.
For those who have been patiently waiting over a year for the return of the show, the temptation of being able to watch the entire season all at once is far too enticing. Each episode is about 45 minutes, and with nine episodes, you can do the math– it’s basically a wonderful all nighter Netflix marathon. I personally had an excellent time in my hoodie and fuzzy blanket wrapped around me, watching the show all the way through. While I did have a great time watching my favorite show for that long, I was left with a sad realization after I had finished the last episode: I now have to wait two more years until I can see season 3.
It was at that point that I realized that maybe people who save the episodes to watch a few times a week, or even weekly, are intelligent. By watching one episode every so often instead of binging, you’re able to register what has happened in the previous episode and let it sink in. And with Stranger Things, it’s probably a good idea to let it sink in, as each episode leaves you prying to have your many questions answered.
Spreading out the episodes also gives you something to look forward to. When I finished the season, it was difficult to swallow the reality that Season 3 that doesn’t come out until 2019. If watched ever-so-often, each episode becomes a treat, and you can use them as rewards when you’re done studying or when you’ve had a rough day and need a pick-me-up. It also simply decreases the amount of time you’ll have to wait until new material is released (but really, who will spread it out over a true, multi-month “season” as with traditional television releases?)
I can’t deny that I am a little bit mad at myself for binge watching the entire season, but I’m hardly the minority when it comes to watching TV shows. In a 2015 TiVo survey, 92% of responders admitted they are binge watchers. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Renee Carr, binge watching is so common because of the feel-good effect it has on our brain. She explains that “When engaged in an activity that’s enjoyable such as binge watching, your brain produces dopamine, [and] this chemical gives the body a natural, internal reward of pleasure that reinforces continued engagement in that activity.” The release of dopamine leaves us with an addictive high that’s comparable to the effect of heroin. Our bodies can become addicted to any activity or substance that produces dopamine — heroin injection and binge-watching of Netflix included.
Another factor that fuels binge watching is spending time immersed in the lives of TV characters. Psychiatrist Gayani Desilva explains that “Our brains code all experiences, be it watched on TV, experienced live, read in a book or imagined, as ‘real’ memories. So when watching a TV program, the areas of the brain that are activated are the same as when experiencing a live event. We get drawn into story lines, become attached to characters and truly care about outcomes of conflicts.” So binge-watching is akin to spending extended time with good friends; once you start hanging out, it’s hard to bring an end to that sense of comfort.
With the science behind binge watching explained, what’s done is done and I’ve already seen the entire season of Stranger Things. Although I am quite sad that the binge-watching party is over, it’s not the end of the world — there’s always rewatching to be done. Intriguingly, Netflix released a series called Beyond Stranger Things, which sits down with the stars, creators, and director of the show to discuss the second season and to provide much-needed explanations. That gives Stranger Things fans about 7-8 more hours of content to watch after they’re done with season 2.
If you haven’t seen season 2 of Stranger Things yet, I would recommend you weigh the pros and cons of either binge watching the entire thing or spacing out the episodes.